The efficacy of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization: a systematic review
Two articles on PainSci cite Cheatham 2016: 1. The Complete Guide to IT Band Syndrome 2. Tissue Provocation Therapies
PainSci commentary on Cheatham 2016: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
This is the first review of studies of an unusual and controversial massage technique: using tools to “scrape” soft tissue. The authors evaluated seven studies, five of which were controlled, and “the results of the studies were insignificant with both groups displaying equal outcomes.” Although there’s not much good evidence to review, the research so far “challenges the efficacy of IASTM as a treatment for common musculoskeletal pathology.”
One slightly positive note was that there is “some evidence supporting its ability to increase short term joint ROM,” for whatever it’s worth (not much — short term increases in ROM have no clear clinical value in and of themselves). As always, more study is needed, and some benefits might be discovered by studying the right people in the right way, but the first several tests have failed to show any obvious benefit.
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
BACKGROUND: Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a popular treatment for myofascial restriction. IASTM uses specially designed instruments to provide a mobilizing effect to scar tissue and myofascial adhesions. Several IASTM tools and techniques are available such as the Graston® technique. Currently, there are no systematic reviews that have specifically appraised the effects of IASTM as a treatment or to enhance joint range of motion (ROM).
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to systematically appraise the current evidence assessing the effects of IASTM as an intervention to treat a musculoskeletal pathology or to enhance joint ROM.
METHODS: A search of the literature was conducted during the month of December 2015 which included the following databases: PubMed, PEDro, Science Direct, and the EBSCOhost collection. A direct search of known journals was also conducted to identify potential publications. The search terms included individual or a combination of the following: instrument; assisted; augmented; soft-tissue; mobilization; Graston®; and technique.
RESULTS: A total of 7 randomized controlled trials were appraised. Five of the studies measured an IASTM intervention versus a control or alternate intervention group for a musculoskeletal pathology. The results of the studies were insignificant (p>.05) with both groups displaying equal outcomes. Two studies measured an IASTM intervention versus a control or alternate intervention group on the effects of joint ROM. The IASTM intervention produced significant (P<.05) short term gains up to 24 hours.
CONCLUSION: The literature measuring the effects of IASTM is still emerging. The current research has indicated insignificant results which challenges the efficacy of IASTM as a treatment for common musculoskeletal pathology, which may be due to the methodological variability among studies. There appears to be some evidence supporting its ability to increase short term joint ROM.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Inciting events associated with lumbar disc herniation. Suri 2010 Spine J.
- Prediction of an extruded fragment in lumbar disc patients from clinical presentations. Pople 1994 Spine (Phila Pa 1976).
- Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study. Konstantinou 2015 BMC Musculoskelet Disord.
- Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of universal school-based mindfulness training compared with normal school provision in reducing risk of mental health problems and promoting well-being in adolescence: the MYRIAD cluster randomised controlled trial. Kuyken 2022 Evid Based Ment Health.
- No long-term effects after a three-week open-label placebo treatment for chronic low back pain: a three-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Kleine-Borgmann 2022 Pain.